It is quite normal to worry about getting old. From deteriorating vision to declining mental abilities, the rigours of ageing can take a toll on your body. The good news, however, is that studies believe a lot of these common age-related changes can be controlled.
There’s a lot you can do to keep your mind sharp and active. Let’s find out how.
What Are Age-related Brain Changes?
Some of the normal age-related changes in the brain are:
- Shrinking Brain Mass: After the age of 60, the cognitive functioning of the brain tends to slow down because of shrinking in the frontal lobe and hippocampus of the brain.
- Thinning Cortical Density: Declining synaptic connections (exchange of information in the brain) can cause the outer ridged surface of the brain to thin. This can result in slower cognitive processing.
- Reduced White Matter: White matter is responsible for carrying nerve signals between the brain and the cells. It is protected by the myelin sheath, a layer that allows quick transmission of information across cells. With age, the myelin is known to shrink, resulting in slow processing and reduced cognitive function.
- Poor Neurotransmitter Systems: Decrease in hormonal levels like dopamine and serotonin may play a role in declining cognition and memory, and increased depression.
However, a brain that gets smaller and lighter can still function as effectively as a younger brain if some basic lifestyle changes are followed and maintained right from the beginning.
Here are 7 tips to keep your brain active and healthy:
- Exercise: At least 30 minutes of exercise every day gives your brain an oxygen boost and helps improve your brain functioning.
- Eat a healthy diet: Include lots of Vitamin B-rich foods like whole grains, pulses, eggs, and nuts. Glucose is your brain’s energy source, so ensure you maintain your glucose levels at all times.
- Avoid high-fat foods: It can clog your arteries and reduce blood flow to your brain.
- Keep learning: Research states that higher education may help keep memory strong. Mental exercises can activate processes that can maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.
- Stay Involved: Visit friends and family often, and stay connected with your peers. Social stimulation does well to brain functioning.
- Play Games: Crosswords, Jigsaws, Sudoku and many more - can stimulate your brain and keep you sharp and active.
- Cultivate a Hobby: Learn a language, start knitting, volunteer, or get a pet - cultivating new skills and developing new interests can keep your mind healthy and active.
What Medical Conditions Can Affect Your Brain Functioning?
As much as lifestyle and diet changes will help keep your brain active, there are some medical conditions that can impair your brain functioning as well.
- Atherosclerosis: The build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls that can block oxygen flow to your brain
- Dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Heart disease
- Certain Medications
- Parkinson's disease
The key to living a long and healthy life is to make a commitment to living healthy from the get-go.